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The HHS Indian Health Service and USPHS Commissioned Corps Unite to Increase Safe Drinking Water and Adequate Sanitation to Tribal Communities

The Indian Health Service (IHS) in partnership with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps Headquarters (CCHQ) launched a seven-year strategic plan to improve safe drinking water access and sanitation in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Both the IHS and the USPHS Commissioned Corps are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The IHS-CCHQ partnership builds on opportunity created through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $3.5 billion to the IHS to develop critical infrastructure, including a safe supply of drinking water, reliable sewage systems, and solid waste disposal facilities.

The partnership aligns with recent announcements made by the Administration during the White House Water Summit to deliver safe drinking water, address climate change and create healthier environments. It also furthers HHS efforts to create consistent access to water supplies.

The strategy was developed by a workgroup established by the HHS Office of the Surgeon General and is led by the USPHS Commissioned Corps Headquarters, the IHS Division of Commissioned Personnel Support and IHS Division of Sanitation Facilities Construction.

The efforts focus on increasing staffing support for Sanitation Facilities Construction (SFC) Program work at IHS through targeted recruitment and retention of Public Health Service officers with expertise in engineering, environmental health, and health services.

“Recruitment and retention of qualified professionals remains a top priority for the Indian Health Service. The IHS is excited to partner with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to address critical sanitation needs within American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said IHS Director Roselyn Tso. “With $3.5 billion appropriated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to resolve sanitation deficiencies, it is critical that we increase staffing support to effectively and efficiently utilize this funding. Our hope is that this partnership will cultivate a talent pool that reflects the diversity and skills required to improve essential infrastructure and the overall wellbeing of tribal communities.”

“This work together with the Indian Health Service and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps help lays the foundation for public health”, said Adm. Rachel Levine, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health. “Providing safe drinking water and sanitation is essential to protecting the health of all those living in the United States. This represents our dedication to ensuring a healthier future for all, while we work to serve some of the most vulnerable communities.”

The plan concentrates on five (5) strategic priorities:

Priority #1: Immediate Staff Support for SFC Program Work at IHS

Priority #2:  Increase Active Duty Engineer and Environmental Health Officers at IHS

Priority #3:  Engineer and Environmental Health Officer Retention

Priority #4: Accelerated Commissioning for Engineer and Environmental Health Applicants

Priority #5:  Increasing the Commissioned Corps Engineer and Environmental Health Officer Category Pipeline

Public Health Services officers will assist tribes in the planning, design, and construction of drinking water, wastewater, and solid waste infrastructure serving tribal homes. They will also provide technical assistance to tribes to support the operation and maintenance of these facilities. With each priority, key performance indicators (KPIs) have been developed to assess progress towards each goal.

Public Health Service officers work in more than  800 locations across the U.S. and around the world with a commitment to safeguarding health and well-being. The IHS and USPHS Commissioned Corps partnership represents a critical step on a federal level to not only further this commitment, but also advance health equity within Tribal Communities and create opportunities for more families to thrive.

For more information on the efforts to increase access to clean water, visit the White House Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces $700 Million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding, Partnership with Bureau of Reclamation at White House Clean Water Summit and the recent HHS Press Release: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces Bold National Goal to Protect and Restore Freshwater Resources, Delivers Over $1 Billion for Tribal Clean Water Projects

The Indian Health Service provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to 574 federally recognized Tribes in 37 states. Follow the agency via social media on Facebook , and LinkedIn.

The USPHS Commissioned Corps is one of the nation’s uniformed services located within the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health with oversight by the Office of the Surgeon General. The service, comprised of almost 6,000 officers, is committed to the protection, promotion advancement of health throughout the nation. For more information, visit     or follow USPHS Commissioned Corps via social media on Twitter, Facebook , LinkedIn or YouTube.

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